PSD Will Open New School Next Fall; Three More Planned


Lisa Bryan, KP News

The name of new elementary school No. 10 will be decided at the Peninsula School District board meeting June 27 at 6 p.m. Courtesy Greene Gasaway Architects

The former Boys and Girls Club will open for students from Discovery Elementary even as the campus expands and plans are made to attract students from the entire district. 

Elementary school No. 10 will be the first themed magnet school in the Peninsula School District after the PSD board of directors unanimously approved the recommendation of Superintendent Art Jarvis at its board meeting March 28.

The board voted to adopt an interim plan to ease overcrowding felt most urgently in elementary schools located in Gig Harbor North, while two new schools are constructed and two others are rebuilt.

“Beginning with the 2019-20 school year this fall, students in four fifth-grade classrooms from nearby Discovery Elementary will be housed on the campus of school No. 10 while the remainder of the new school is under construction,” Jarvis said.

Construction of additional classrooms will complete the campus of school No. 10, capable of housing 500-plus K-5 students and intended to open in fall 2020 as a themed magnet school.

“Magnet schools are popular nationwide in public school systems because they offer parents options and choice.”

The district narrowed the choice of theme to three: science-technology-engineering-art-math (STEAM), a school of the arts or a community school that focuses on learning through stewardship and volunteering.

“The goal of the magnet school is not to find a model that will outperform our neighborhood schools on standardized tests. Research on magnet schools show mixed results on improving student performance; they don’t seem to conclusively improve or negatively impact achievement results,” wrote Superintendent of Elementary programs John Hellwich in a statement on the PSD website. “Magnet schools are popular nationwide in public school systems because they offer parents options and choice.”

Located only a quarter mile from Discovery Elementary School, Hellwich noted an advantage in creating a magnet school at No. 10 “is the ability to draw students from all over the district, which in turn limits the impact on families had a big chunk of our boundaries needed to be redrawn.”

“To ensure equity of student access to the magnet school, PSD will use a lottery system if there are more students applying to attend the new school than slots allocated,” Hellwich wrote. “A well-publicized lottery entry window system would open and each student’s name would be drawn, so even if they are not selected initially, they will be placed on a ranked waiting list and names will come from the top as openings occur. Students will be drawn proportionally from each school as a percentage of their population.”

Site map shows layout of campus in concept #3b, revision 1 from May 25. Courtesy Greene Gasaway Architects

Stephanie Strader, the principal of Harbor Heights Elementary, was appointed the new principal of school No. 10. The PSD board approved Strader’s appointment and voted in favor of the magnet school concept at its April 25 board meeting.

“I’m humbled, honored and excited to dream,” Strader said. A product herself of PSD schools, she grew up attending Vaughn Elementary and Key Peninsula Middle School and still lives on the KP. “Partly what draws me to this idea is to provide kids with opportunities.”

“We’re going through the process right now of determining the theme of the new school,” she said. “Community input is important, what parents want is important, but I have a desire to hear from students what they would value.” A final recommendation to the school board on theme is anticipated by early summer.

David Brooks, the principal of Discovery Elementary since 2008, will be the principal of school No. 9, to be constructed in North Gig Harbor.

Strader and Brooks will both begin showing up to work at their new offices in the former Boys and Girls Club this summer, each in their new capacity as planning principals for their own new schools. Initially both principals will help provide support for students attending No. 10 in the fall of 2019, plan for their respective new schools, and be available to support Artondale and Evergreen Elementary School principals as they plan their own school rebuilds.

“I could not think of a better way when you all voiced your concerns that our kids feel cared for and not just out in an annex, than to allow their principal to move with them,” Jarvis said. “To be able to involve the planning principals at this stage of the building when it’s still being developed, when it’s being designed and when lines can still be moved on paper…it’s huge.”

Brooks will also be involved in the reboundary process, so that people can know as soon as possible what neighborhoods will be with him at school No. 9.

“The reaction to the magnet school from parents has been positive,” PSD Board President Deborah Krishnadasan said. “People have come to realize that the magnet school will attract students from schools across the whole district, relieving overcrowding at all eight elementary schools.”